I like getting email from readers, especially when they clue me in to something I’d never heard of.
In March, Jeremy had written that he’d come across my blog post about Indian Cave State Park and he had a closer recommendation for me to check out:
“…just wanted to share with you a nice little place that I take my daughter to quite often when we need a nature break. Heron Haven. It’s inside the Omaha city limits and is quite a nice little place. They have a small nature garden with native plants as well as a wetlands area as well as an Education Center. If you haven’t visited, it is a very under appreciated part of Omaha near Maple and 120th, kind of across Maple from Mulhall’s. You can see it on north side of the road as your drive on Maple, but it is easily overlooked. Link below to their website and facebook page.
May be a little spare right now, though we did notice birds are starting to return for the Spring. Hope your family enjoys it as much as mine does.”
Well, Jeremy, we finally got to visit and I have to say that in May, this little place is a wonderful city escape!
We could’ve picked a worse day to go, but the threat of rain at least meant no one else was there during our visit. We were greeted by a kind woman I’m going to presume is a volunteer. She pointed out the areas of interest and explained the pond in view was in the process of becoming a dragonfly pond.
We also found out that the education center is only open occasionally. Your best bet to catch it open are the events shared at the end of this post.
An Intro To Heron Haven Wetland Sanctuary
What is it?
It’s called an urban sanctuary and that’s pretty accurate. You’ll hear a steady hum from Maple Street traffic, but you start to tune it out the longer you walk around.
Heron Haven is one of the last riparian oxbow wetlands of the Big Papillion Creek within Omaha’s city limits (got that off the brochure). That pretty much means it’s a curving wetland next to streams and lakes.
It’s probably the best kept secret in Omaha.
And it’s FREE.
What’s at Heron Haven?
Your first stop from the parking lot will either be the butterfly garden or the native grass plot.
We were with kids, so obviously, they chose butterflies.
It smelled lovely, as could be expected.
In late May, the spring flowers were in full bloom.
But with the weather, no butterflies were spotted.
There are two out-and-back trails. The Upland Trail will take you to a photo blind at a marsh.
You’ll actually find two blinds on that path, but the one you’re heading for is an enclosure with benches.
We spotted two geese there. The wildlife spotted along the way, though, was way more exciting for the kids.
They found toads in one of the ponds, and tons of snails on our path.
The Upland Trail isn’t too strenuous but if it’s been rainy, expect mud. This trail, by the way is not stroller- or wheelchair-friendly.
The other trail takes you to the boardwalk.
It’s a quick one, just a quarter-mile, but it does lead to the boardwalk that extends over the wetlands.
It is an accessible trail if you’ve got a stroller or wheelchair.
Rather than just leaving you to your own devices, there are several signs throughout the wetland area, telling you what trees you’re seeing, or explaining how to behave around wildlife with new chicks, etc.
What you may see at Heron Haven
Wildlife: Kingfishers, Green Herons, Great Blue Herons, wood ducks, Canada geese, painted turtles, frogs, snails, hummingbirds, butterflies
Plantlife: Blueflag Iris, Arrowheads, Cattail, Duckweed, Sedges, Swamp Milkweed
Important rules at Heron Haven
No pets or bicycles allowed.
Trails are open from dawn to dusk everyday.
Bug spray is a must.
If you go
Where: Heron Haven, 11809 Old Maple Road, Omaha, Neb.
When: Open daily from dawn to dusk
Family-friendly educational programs are held on the second Saturday of the month from 10 to 11:30 a.m. (probably weather dependent).
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